Today we will talk about cruelty-free dog food. This post was written by my guest blogger Kristen Nelson.

dog food

When I made the decision to switch to a cruelty-free lifestyle, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know all that I was getting in to. The more I looked in to it, the more I was shocked of all that needed to be replaced. I quickly realized that every single hygiene, make-up, and house-hold product needed to be switched out. A lot more than I had anticipated. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I grabbed my computer, some vegan apps on my phone, glass of wine and got to work!

Digging in to my research about vegan products, one came up that I had never considered before; pet food. I realize that there can be obviously vegan pet food, but what I was actually looking for was cruelty-free pet food. The feeding trials that most companies are required to participate in are actually quite inhumane, making an already obscure product even harder to find. As I learned more, reading articles and contacting the food companies I was disappointed to find that even when a food is labeled as cruelty-free, it may be misleading.

When a food trial is advertised on the label, they have conducted a 26 week trial where the animals are only allowed to eat that particular food, these animals are typically bred specifically for this purpose. They will be born in a kennel, live in a kennel, and die in a kennel. Often times without ever even seeing the outdoors. Marshall BioResources is a huge contributor to this, providing testing laboratories with the “Marshall Beagle”.

Like other working dogs, research dogs are trained and acclimated for their life as a working dog. This means that these dogs are acclimated to life in a research facility, and remain happy, calm and content in this environment.

Dogs bred and raised at Marshall BioResources are considered “purpose-bred” for biomedical research. Providing “purpose-bred” dogs is beneficial because this ensures that medical research involves dogs that were bred and trained for life in a research facility. Therefore, they are comfortable and happy, which ensures that the dogs do not experience undue stress, and that the research they help create is accurate and reliable.” –Marshall BioResources

As a veterinary technician, lifetime pet owner, and owner of a pet sitting business I can assure you that no animal is “…happy, calm, and content…” in a kennel for its entire life. Marshall BioResource tries to skew the abuse of their animals by comparing them to working dogs, saying that working dogs are happiest when given a job. Therefore their dogs are happy to work for biomedical testing.

A working dog is a Puli herding sheep, or a German Shepard working for the police force;   work keeps them engaged, excited, and exercised. A working dog is not a dog sitting in a kennel having cruel tests done, while being force fed a food that is making it sick. In 2009 the pet food company IAMS had video leaked of their testing facility, it showed sick and dying animals, animals that were definitely NOT happy, calm, and content. Some of them showing signs of extreme stress and neglect.

As I continued to research, trying to find out how a food trial could be done humanely I was excited to find out that some companies used volunteers as feeding trial participants. Most being employee’s animals, but they were allowed to stay at home! Nothing changed for these animals except for their food, and that they had to come in and be examined more often! While this may be true for the final product, if in the ingredient list there is anything labeled; “natural flavor” or any variation thereof, then inhumane feeding tests were still conducted on the flavoring. At this time, there are no cruelty-free makers of the flavoring use in pet food. I was able to verify this by contacting the companies and directly asking how their feeding trials were conducted. So now I had a small list of cruelty-free companies, I just had to pick one that I was willing to try to feed my dogs!

One of the ones that I gravitated towards first was Fromm’s, as I live in the United States and it’s made in Wisconsin. Fromm’s does not make a vegan product, all of their food does contain meat or fish. However, Fromm’s fits my definition of cruelty-free due to its humane feeding trials so I was willing to give it a try. I have four dogs, ranging in size from 12 pounds to 64 pounds, and two years of age to seven. I prefer to feed them all the same food, as trying to coordinate four different dog foods sounds like way to much work. After finding a cruelty-free dry kibble my next thing to look at was the price point, I was used to paying $40-$50 for a 30 pound bag. Four dogs go through that quickly, so I was nervous to see how much more expensive this specialty food was going to cost. I shop for pet food online, finding a 30 pound bag of Fromm’s duck and sweet potato formula for $62. If you sign up for the auto-order, which I do so I never run low on food, it gives you a 10% discount making it $55 a bag. I was excited to find such a high quality food, for only $5 more than what I was paying!

Signed up immediately for the auto-order and placed my first order, nervous to see if my dogs would actually eat it. They’re not hugely picky, but picky enough that they have to really like the food in order to eat it daily. I also like to make sure that the kibble size is large enough for them to crunch a few times before swallowing to help keep tartar off their teeth, because I definitely don’t have time to brush four dogs teeth plus my own every day!

The kibble size was a small octagon shape, a little smaller than I’d like but still crunchable for oral care. I also noticed when I opened the bag that it didn’t stink as much as my previous food, it actually had almost no smell at all. Which is nice, as some kibble is really pungent! The first week I slowly mixed the food in with my old food, so my dogs ate it without a problem. As I started to increase the amount of the Fromm’s food, at about 75% new food and 25% old food I was curious to see who would eat what. My dogs have been known to eat around the new food, eating only the old food. But, all four of them ate every single piece, practically licking the bowl clean!

One of my dogs is really rather picky, refusing to eat his food half the time unless wet food is mixed in. Due to health concerns, I make sure the little love always eats, which means I have had to start purchasing wet food. Looking at prices online, and deciding to try another brand I chose Halo brand, the beef stew flavor. I had been paying $23 for 12, 6 oz cans. I found the Halo cans, 6, 12 oz cans for $28. So again, for $5 more I had a food that supported my beliefs!

My picky little dog didn’t just eat the Halo food, he absolutely devoured it, in seconds! While I notice that this food is extremely smelly, it seems to make it all the more appetizing to my dogs! I occasionally offer my other dogs the wet food as well, and if possible they ate it even faster! With both the Halo wet food, and the Fromm’s dry kibble I noticed an improvement in my dogs skin and coat, we had recently adopted a dog before switching foods. He came to us with very dry, itchy skin and a lot of dandruff; after being on the Fromm’s dry kibble for a few weeks that all cleared up!

Overall I couldn’t be more pleased with my choices, for about $10 more a month, I found two nutritious and apparently delicious foods that also support causes I believe in. While the Fromm’s food isn’t available in vegan options, Halo food is! There is a dry kibble and wet food option if your dog to be strictly vegan too! I will actually be trying the vegan wet food next, though I have no doubt it’ll be just as appetizing as the beef stew!

Guest blogger of the day,

Kristen Nelson

Recently cruelty-free, working to make a difference with positivity, married with five, four legged children, writing and learning to run my own business! Interested in more reviews and personal growth? Follow me at painfreepanda.com or connect with me on Facebook under Kristen Nelson.

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